I will always remember walking home from primary school at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains, NSW being annoyed by my mother and father’s constant insistence about saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’. It seemed totally illogical to my egotistical young brain at the time. Looking back now, I am thankful for parents who insisted I say ‘thank you’ whether I thought it was a good idea or not.
You see, all children are egotistical and selfish to a greater or lesser extent. For their own good they have to develop by looking outside themselves and learn the power of thanks.
The newly developed Science of Gratitude shows that my mum and dad were right and I was wrong and so are our children when they refuse to say ‘thank you’.
Diana Kapp, in an article called ‘Teaching Children to Count Their Blessings is Worth the Effort’, says this:
Giving thanks is no longer just holiday fare. A field of research on gratitude in kids is emerging, and early findings in the US indicate parents’ instincts to elevate the topic are spot-on. Concrete benefits come to kids who literally count their blessings.
Gratitude works like a muscle. Take time to recognise good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase. Even more, those who are less grateful gain the most from a concerted effort. “Gratitude treatments are most effective in those least grateful,” says Eastern Washington University psychology professor Philip Watkins.
Among a group of 122 primary school kids taught a week-long curriculum on concepts of giving, gratitude grew, according to a study due to be published next year in School Psychology Review. The heightened thankfulness translated into action: 44 per cent of the kids in the curriculum opted to write thank-you notes when given the choice following a Parent Teacher Association presentation. In the control group, 25 per cent wrote notes.
“The old adage that virtues are caught, not taught, applies here,” University of California, Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons says. Parents need to model this behaviour to build their children’s gratitude muscle. “It’s not what parents want to hear, but you cannot give your kids something that you yourselves do not have,” Emmons says.
This may seems obvious, but it eludes many parents, Watkins says: “I think the most important thing for us adults to realise is we’re not very grateful either.”
The mere act of giving thanks has tangible benefits, research suggests. A 2008 study of 221 children published in the Journal of School Psychology analysed sixth and seventh-graders assigned to list five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. It found they had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later, compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
Another study examined 1035 high school students outside New York City. The study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Happiness Studies, found that those who showed high levels of gratitude, for instance thankfulness for the beauty of nature and strong appreciation of other people, reported having better academic performance, less depression and envy, and a more positive outlook than less grateful teenagers.
Further, teens who strongly connected buying and owning things with success and happiness reported having lower academic scores, more depression and a more negative outlook.
“Materialism had just the opposite effect as gratitude, almost like a mirror,” says study co-author Jeffrey Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York.
Read more here:
If you are still not convinced of the need to get your children to say ‘thank you’, then read Amit Amin’s article at his Happier Human blog, where he lists 31 well researched reasons why having an attitude of gratitude will make you and your children happier, more liked by others, healthier, live longer and build a better career for both you and your children when they start work.
Now who wouldn’t want that for their children!
You know your assignment for this week already!?!
Wake up each morning and thank your wife and thank your children. Even if your baby can’t talk, you can talk to your baby and think of some reasons to say thank you. Start saying thank you to everyone you meet. You could even write a thank you note to someone. Whatever you do, you will be so glad you did.
Yours for saying thanks
PS. Australia Day is a great day to count your blessings. We live in one of the most blessed countries in the world, Even the poorest Australian is a millionaire compared with the majority of the world’s population.
We have a lot to be thankful for. On a related note, check out the National Day of Thanksgiving, which the team at Dads4Kids helped to initiate, along with many others. It is held on the last Saturday of May every year, but don’t wait till then to say thank you.